Revised 2018

Thyroiditis is an inflammation of the thyroid gland. There are four main types

Viral or subacute thyroiditis

  • Caused by: an unidentified viral infection
  • Symptoms: enlarged, usually very painful thyroid gland, flu-like symptoms, hyperthyroidism sometimes followed by hypothyroidism
  • Diagnosis: physical examination and blood tests
  • Treatment: steroids in severe cases, anti-inflammatory medications (e.g. ibuprofen) although in mild cases no treatment may be necessary
  • Outcome: usually complete recovery within a few months; rarely levothyroxine is given if the hypothyroidism is permanent

Postpartum thyroiditis

  • Occurs: usually in the first six months after childbirth but may present as depression
  • Symptoms: swollen thyroid gland, not usually painful, hyperthyroidism sometimes followed by hypothyroidism
  • Diagnosis: physical examination and blood tests
  • Treatment: beta blockers, if necessary, during the hyperthyroid phase, levothyroxine during the hypothyroid phase
  • Outcome: usually complete recovery within a few months; otherwise levothyroxine is given if the hypothyroidism is permanent (estimated 1 in 5-10). It often returns in subsequent pregnancies; you should therefore be tested after any further pregnancies

Drug-induced thyroiditis

  • Cause: certain drugs may cause thyroiditis, including amiodorone, lithium, sunitinib, axitinib, interferons, pembrolizumab, nivolumab and ipilimumab
  • Diagnosis: physical examination and blood tests
  • Treatment: in many cases the thyroiditis resolves itself without treatment. With other drugs such as amiodarone, steroid therapy may be necessary

Autoimmune thyroiditis

  • Caused by: an autoimmune process which can be either temporary due to the thyroid gland releasing stored thyroid hormone (silent thyroiditis) which is usually followed by recovery to normal function or permanent resulting in loss of thyroid hormone production (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis)
  • Symptoms: hyperthyroidism followed by hypothyroidism and sometimes an enlarged thyroid (goitre) if a silent thyroiditis or hypothyroidism if Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
  • Diagnosis: blood tests
  • Treatment: levothyroxine for life

Common symptoms of hypothyroidism

  • General tiredness
  • Increased awareness of the cold
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Hoarse voice
  • Muscle weakness
  • A small increase in weight
  • Slow speech, movements and thoughts
  • Low mood or depression

Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism

  • Weight loss despite an increased appetite
  • Palpitations
  • Sweating and heat intolerance
  • Tiredness
  • Nervousness and irritability
  • Shakiness
  • A rapid pulse
  • Mood swings or aggressive behaviour

Thyroid problems often run in families and if family members are unwell they should be encouraged to discuss with their own GP whether thyroid testing is warranted.

This Quick Guide is one in a series about thyroid disorders. All Quick Guides are available on the British Thyroid Foundation website.

A leaflet containing more detailed information about Thyroiditis is also available.

The British Thyroid Foundation

www.btf-thyroid.org

info@btf-thyroid.org
tel: 01423 810093
The British Thyroid Foundation is a registered charity: England and Wales No 1006391, Scotland SC046037

Membership Information
Quick Guides
Leaflets

Endorsed by:

The British Thyroid Association - medical professionals encouraging the highest standards in patient care and research
www.british-thyroid-association.org

The British Association of Endocrine and Thyroid Surgeons - the representative body of British surgeons who have a specialist interest in surgery of the endocrine glands (thyroid, parathyroid and adrenal)
www.baets.org.uk

First issued: 2008
Revised: 2011, 2015, 2018
Our literature is reviewed every two years and revised if necessary.
© 2018 BRITISH THYROID FOUNDATION

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